Episode 122: Feeling overwhelmed while training your horse.

A listener asks a question about feeling overwhelmed. She is studying and learning about good horsemanship, developing true partnership and relationship. She is aware there are a LOT of things happening.
First I give an overview, then I give FIVE actionable steps for addressing this and then I close with a real life example that includes a miniature horse!


Stacy Westfall: Hi, I’m Stacy Westfall, and I’m here to teach you how to understand, enjoy, and successfully train your own horses. In today’s podcast, I’m answering a question from a listener who’s feeling overwhelmed while training her own horse. And I’m going to answer this a little bit based on the phrasing that she used of intangible and tangible. So the podcast will begin with a little bit of theoretical, intangible kind of stuff. But don’t worry, hold on. Later in the podcast, I’m going to give you five very tangible, actionable steps that you can do, and then I’m going to wrap up with a story about a mini to bring it all home. Let’s go ahead and listen to the question.

Caller: Hi, Stacy. I am a huge fan of your podcast, like anybody asking these questions, I’m sure. Thank you so much for all of the knowledge and expertise and wisdom that you put out into the world to help all of us horse owners. Thank you so much. My question is a little bit intangible. I hope that’s OK. Well, I know, you know, as I’m saying, that sometimes your answers are kind of intangible, too. So maybe it will work. I don’t know. But I am getting a little bit overwhelmed with the more that I learn about communication with horses and true partnership with horses and, you know, the nuances of good riding and good groundwork. It seems to me that ultimately it comes down to an ability to really be present with what’s happening in your body, like what are you physically doing? What’s going on in your head? You know, the four square model, but it’s being really aware of all four squares at the same time, and I can do one of them maybe, but I’m struggling with the idea that I need to do four of–all of–like I need to be aware of all four in order to get that good relationship with my horse. I have a 13-year-old gelding that I got last year, and he’s awesome. He’s such a sweet guy, but he’s a little shut down and doesn’t really love to pay attention to me. And so I’ve been really trying to work on the relationships so that I can get his buy-in. And I’m really struggling to pay attention to all four of those things at once, and I wonder if you have any advice.

Stacy Westfall: First, I want to thank you for your question and for permission to be slightly intangible. And I do love this because to me, I think that there is a dance that goes on here. When I listen to your question, I was thinking how it’s interesting that when things are really tangible, when it’s like, OK, how do I get my horse to load in the trailer? Sometimes it helps to think in less tangible terms at that moment. But then there are other times that when something is really intangible like relationship, sometimes it helps to think of them in a very tangible kind of a way. So I love that you mention this, because even though I haven’t been super direct about saying that’s part of what I do, I definitely know this is what I do on the podcast on purpose. I’m really aware of it because even though I don’t necessarily define it for you guys or even necessarily when I’m making my outline, I know that I’m doing it. And I know the reason is because I’m really aware of this dance between the rider’s mind and the rider’s body. Just like with the horses, it’s like this dance of the mind and the body. Ultimately, we’re after the mind because in the very, very final end of it, when we look, we’re like, wow, if we really have the mind really in the right place, then we can do anything we want with our body, their body. It’s–it’s not restricted by our mind. So the more open that is, we can then max the potential out on the body side where a lot of times you’ll see that the body is kind of restricted because of the thinking. And so, as you mentioned in your question, you know, there is for sure this idea of being very present and very self-aware. And so for me, when I’m listening to questions like yours, actually any of the questions that come in, what I always do is I put myself in your place. So I put myself first in the place of the person who is asking the question. Then interestingly, I put myself in the place of the horse that’s involved in the question. But I think it’s interesting for me when I put myself into your place, into the place of the person asking this question, because most of the time I’ve been in these mental places before, the place where this question is on my lips or was spoken by me or someplace really, really similar. So that’s what I’m doing and that’s what I’m going to do as I answer this question for you, because when I hear you asking this question on the surface, I can find myself in that spot several different times in my life. But then what’s interesting, when I ask that same question, when I put myself in that place and I take it to the essence of what you’re asking. I feel it a lot more times in my life, I can feel it very recent. So it’s interesting sometimes when it’s–when it’s boiled down to real black and white, like maybe you listen to me answering a question for somebody who’s having trouble getting their horse in the trailer. It can be really easy to dismiss a question if you feel like, well, I already know how I can get a horse in a trailer and I don’t have that problem and you can kind of go on. But what’s interesting is to think if you listen to me answer a question like that, what is the essence of this question that’s being asked? Because that’s when you can start realizing that you have a lot in common with people, because it comes down to a lot of this mind stuff that you mentioned in your question that have led you to this spot of overwhelm. So, as you mentioned, I’m going to run this around in both the tangible and intangible kind of way.

Stacy Westfall: So your first very tangible assignment for unpacking this is I wrote a list of the words that I heard you use in your question. So here are some of them: overwhelmed, good horsemanship, true partnership, good riding, good horsemanship, relationship. So if you want a very tangible way to make this intangible come to life for you is it’s–it’s like I want you to take a piece of paper and I want you to write a full page on each one of those words. So, for example, on the word “overwhelm” or “overwhelmed,” you can use either or both tenses if you’d like, and take a page and write down everything that “overwhelmed” makes you think of. Maybe that immediately starts out with what you’re experiencing with your horse and then you realize that only gives you two paragraphs and you need another half a page. So then you start thinking, when’s another time I’ve seen overwhelm? And you think of a person, a different person outside of you maybe. And and you write about what that person looked like or what kind of, you know, what gave you the impression they were overwhelmed? And maybe that leads you back to thinking about a time in your life when you were overwhelmed. I want you to do this complete download on overwhelm. And I took a writing class, as in writing with a pen and pencil kind of writing class once. And she called it a vomit draft. When you did writing like this, it’s so gruesome and so perfect. Like don’t make this pretty. Don’t make this some kind of cleaned up version that you want to turn in. I don’t care if you burn it when you’re done, but just really, blah, put it all on paper. Put, you know, what overwhelmed means to you and then do the same thing for good horsemanship. And, you know, it might start out all pretty. And you’re like, good horsemanship is when this happens and it feels flowing. And then if you do it for a little while, maybe you’ll find that it’s like, you’re like, and I’m so mad that I can’t find this good horsemanship and is good horsemanship even real? And like, whatever comes out, it’s a vomit draft. Let it all out. Do this for all of these words. Do it for true partnership. Again, I encourage you to bring it into other relationship areas. So what is true partnership? How do you see that in the human world? How is that crossing over? Because I don’t care if you make this about horses or dogs or human relationships, when you form an opinion on what true partnership or relationship is, because those words are broad, they’re going to go across different relationships that you have in your life and that’s going to be across, you know, potentially different species. So you can go ahead and like define it with a dog or another person or a horse or a past horse or a future horse or whatever comes out. Because what we’re looking for here are some of these thoughts that are hiding these actually, limiting beliefs that are kind of hiding underneath there, dressed up with some pretty words. So don’t be afraid to take a word and have it ascend and descend while you’re writing. So take it out there. Don’t try to write your perfect, beautiful dictionary definition and make sure you make it kind of physical, at least on that one page. Like at some point I want it to be something that if you’re writing it, there should be at least a few sentences on that page where we can see it in physical form, almost like you were watching a silent movie or watching something on mute. Like so if you’re defining relationship and you’re in the realm of a horse relationship, you can, you can define what that is. Or if you’re in the realm of a human relationship, are they holding hands? Like what is this physical representation of what you’re trying to get out there? It’s kind of interesting because another piece that I hear in there is that a piece of your overwhelm is coming from…you’re saying like, there’s so much going on, it’s like the four square model, and I need to be present for all four, and aware for all four. And what’s really interesting, what that brought up for me was that, it’s ever only one moment at a time. And I think when I put myself into the mindset that I felt when I listened to that piece of the question, t kept making me want to write, it’s only ever one moment. Because when–even I record these podcasts, when I sit down and you can hear it so much more in the early podcasts, you can hear my fear and reservation in my voice and part of that battle. And even though I could identify the battle at the time, because I’d done it in a lot of other areas, even though I could identify it like this, I’m afraid I’m not going to get this podcast done well enough. It’s not going to be good enough. My answer is not going to be right enough. It’s not going to be–even though I didn’t–I already knew not to use the word perfect. Essentially I was dancing around, this podcast won’t be good enough. This podcast won’t be perfect. And that’s what I’m saying. Like when you’re doing those vomit drops on the different words don’t get so dancey that you won’t use the word. Like, well, I know I shouldn’t go for perfect. If it feels like you’re fighting against perfect, write down “perfect.” So when I sit down to record a podcast…and, you know, think about it like this. Think about it like I could have listened to your question and I could have been like, oh my gosh, she thinks I’m intangible at times. Oh, no, I’m doing it all wrong. Like, tangible, intangible. I need to be really tangible. Like my next ten podcasts have to be really tangible. Can you hear how how I received your question could have locked up the whole conversation? It could have actually impacted this relationship that we have as podcaster and podcast listener by my response to your question, which would have been enformed largely by my fear of what you said. But it not–it’s never a fear of what you said. It’s a fear that I would have had to have already had in me. Whoo! Good luck with that sentence, paragraph, whatever that was. So when you are sensing that you’re dancing around something, like if I go back to me at the early stages of this podcast and my fear of getting it right, answering your question right, it comes down to me the way this dance is with the horsemanship piece of it is my fear inside of getting it right in one podcast, I had to keep telling myself it’s not just one podcast. If I don’t get it, “right” in this one podcast, then I have time to unpack this in multiple podcasts. And then there’s another part of my brain. This like, no, no, you don’t. This is somebody’s first podcast, it’s the first time they’ve ever listened to you and you didn’t get it right and they’re not going to come back. And that might be true, it very likely is true. And so if it’s true, I can also just take a deep breath and say, and they weren’t the right person right now, I’m not the right person for them. They’re not the right person for me. Maybe they’ll come back, maybe they won’t. I hope they find somebody they connect with really well, because I’m going to take a deep breath and I’m going to realize that in my teaching style, in my lifestyle, in the way that I live, this dance of the tangible and intangible is very real and alive for me. And that’s where I’m at right now. And there’s other podcasts, you’ll hear there’s podcasts that I have back there, and it’s one of the reasons I did the four square model in the beginning was because I thought, if people want to have any chance of following my logic, they’re going to need a primer on the four square model. Because once I turn myself loose, it gets very winding and it gets very, you know, up and down and tangible and intangible. I really do love those words. So, so thank you for giving them to me. And and so it was–even, it was if you hear me saying that, it is even the reflection, me reflecting back, re-reflecting back on what I knew about my conversation style, teaching style, way that I process, and the way that I come across, I was aware of how that works or doesn’t work for people. And as I’m recording, I am aware of the pros and the cons of that. And that is another version of what you’re doing when you’re out with your horse. Because another thing I hear inside of your question is this dance between the technical and the mindset. You know, it’s like I think people who have been exploring horsemanship for a while realize that there’s a dance of both, that there is a technical side to having some skills with the tools and understanding and recognizing what the horse is saying, and when you release, and when you do more, and when you do less, or whatever words work for you there. And both are very real. So it’s interesting to think that. You know, you can even look at the way that you do this in other parts of your life. The way that you study and learn and show up and interact in other areas of your life is actually going to help you inform the way that your process looks with your horse. I can see trends in me in the way that I learn and in the way that I teach. And that’s what I’m saying to you I’m doing in the podcast. And then I do that in my horsemanship, too. So I recognize when I start getting almost rigid with techniques and then I have ways to bring myself back into a more playful mindset. And that’s what I’m going to unpack for you a little bit more right now.

Stacy Westfall: So let’s go ahead and make this a little bit more tangible. So let’s say that I put myself kind of into the framework of some version of me asking your question at some point. So I think to myself, when I put myself back in that frame, I think I want to I really want to go out and I want to work on this relationship with my horse. The first thing that I realize when I think that is, do I even believe that work and relationship can go together? And so all of a sudden now I’ve got another like, oh, I need to unpack the word “work” and the word “relationship.” Good, I’ve already done “relationship.” I’ve got to unpack the word “work” because sometimes that word will hang people up when they go out. Even training, that will hang people up. They’ll be like, I’m going out to work with my horse. Wait a minute. I don’t like the word work. I’m going out to train my horse. I don’t want to train my horse. I want to have a relationship with my horse. Sometimes you have to, like, dance around to find out what that is. And so let’s just say you’re going to go out and you’re going to do some groundwork with your horse. You know, OK, I’m just going to go out and do some groundwork with my horse that doesn’t feel like I’m working or training. I’m going to go out and do that. So I get to this and I go out and I go to send my horse around me on the end of the lunge line. And he goes around like three or four times. He’s, you know, essentially doing what I want him to do. But he looks really disinterested. He’s like, looking into the outside. He’s not really looking at me. I have to be kind of like bigger with my body language. And I don’t know if I want to be bigger with my body language, but I’m a little bit, you know, what the heck does this mean? You know, why does he look to the outside so much? And it’s interesting because it’s like, what am I making that mean? What is the word “disinterested” doing there? He looks disinterested. Well, there’s a lot of different things. Is this about me? Is it about him? It’s about his past. What does it say about our future? This is what I’m saying might be going on in your mind, in the moment. He’s trotting around, you notice he’s out there at the end of the lunge line, he’s looking to the outside. You might be thinking, you know, all of this stuff happens at once. Like is–am I doing something wrong? Why is he doing that? Did somebody do this to him in the past? How is this going to work out in our future? And then right after that, you’re like, oh my gosh, I really need to calm down. What did that last YouTube video show me doing? So I’m going to step over here because on the YouTube video they did that. OK, wait a minute. Deep breath. I read that–that article in Horse and Rider and, and then Stacy said on her podcast that I could do this. And then, you know, you finish and you did some stuff, but you walk away and you’re thinking, man, he was really disinterested and then you walk away and you go like, oh, wow, that was just such a disconnected feeling when I was out there working with him. And I don’t know how this is going to be. And then all of a sudden you might have this realization, oh my gosh, I was really disconnected with me. I was like–I was–I was in my past, I was in my future. I was in his past. I was in his future. I was in YouTube. And it was–I didn’t even have a screen near me. And I was reading, rereading a Horse and Rider article in my mind. And I was trying to listen to Stacy’s podcast in my mind, but I can’t remember which one because she’s really winding. And she talked about it in like 16 different areas, but not all together in one podcast. And could she just straighten it out and make it a one, two, three? Like, no, no, I’ve never done any of this. I’m just making this up. And so this is the point where, like, maybe if you’re me, you grab a pen and paper and you get it all out of your head. I took that writing class. She called it the vomit draft. I’m going to be like, OK, I’m going to put it all on paper. And again now, this time when you’re putting it all on paper, you’re not just defining words. Now you’re just you’re doing this after you did a lesson, after you did a whatever you want to call that groundwork session with your horse, that doesn’t really offend you, because all of a sudden you realize you’re really offended by the work, train–the word work and the work word training. And that’s just an interesting thing to explore. But right now, you’re exploring so many different things, you’re not quite sure you’re even sane anymore. So now you write down, I can’t believe I just messed everything up. He’s never going to love me and I can’t tell if he respects me. And my uncle told me this was never going to work out and maybe I really should have gotten a goldfish, or whatever else comes out when you sit down to write. Because this actually works the best. If you write out your worst fears. And that sounds so weird, and sometimes people find it really hard to write their worst fears because they’re stomping them down so hard while they’re doing this with their horse. Because they know on some level that they don’t want to show up like that. So they’re really convinced that hiding their worst fears is probably the best. I’m raising my hand. Been there. Done that. So seriously. Take this as far as you can. And I have so many people that tell me, like I don’t journal, I don’t write. I’m telling you, this is like a napkin in your truck. I wrote notes on the back of a bank deposit slip the other day. It’s not like you have to do this in some beautiful journal. I do love beautiful journals, I confess, and I love pens that feel really good on beautiful journals. But what I’m saying is it doesn’t have to be that pretty. It can be a napkin and it can be bullet point words. It can be the back of a deposit slip that you find randomly sitting in the truck, the back of a receipt. Just write down some of your worst fears, because there’s something about putting them on paper and then you can again rip them up and throw them away if you want. But the more realistic you can make it, just for a moment, you’ll start to realize what is underneath all of that. Because we’re looking for some of these big limiting beliefs.

Stacy Westfall: So let’s go a little bit further. So you start writing this down and you’re making it really realistic and all of a sudden you realize that you’re really worried that you worked your horse too physically hard. And your worst nightmare is that you might be causing some kind of physical harm. Or maybe you write it down and you realize your worst nightmare might be that he’s hating you. Or your worst nightmare is that you’ll never get coordinated enough with all the tools and then that leads to him hating you and then that leads to you having to sell him. So in the middle of all this writing you might end up realizing that your horse, you’re saying things like, you know, I don’t want to make this mistake with my horse because if I don’t get this right…And then all of a sudden you’re going to maybe realize, if I don’t get this right? What does that mean if I don’t get this right? Does it mean that I don’t ever get to have that dream come true, that I had long ago? Or when I got my horse, I was really hoping this is how it would go. And this writing assignment can actually cause you to have that little breaking point where you’re like, oh my gosh, I’m really scared of how awful this could be if I really think about where this could go. And then that’s when it’s like, can you take a deep breath? And then actually really realize a time in your life, one time in your life when you would have done anything just to brush your horse. You know, maybe that was when you were a little kid. And you just begged your parents that you could go brush a horse or maybe that was that time that you spent sitting for a week in a hospital with somebody else, or maybe you were the one in the hospital and you were just like, I would do anything to go into a barn and smell the smell of horses and brush a horse. And that’s when I suggest when you shift into that mindset, you know, right after your breakdown that you just had, because I gave you that writing assignment and it’s all fallen apart for you. That’s when I want you to take this person that you now are when you remember that moment that you would do anything to just brush a horse. That’s when you need to be very gentle with yourself and tiptoe out to the barn. This works amazingly well at a really random time. Go out and brush your horse at 11 o’clock at night while he’s eating hay. And what you’re going to find if you can stay in that mindset that came right after you had your awful breakdown, because I had you write all of this in the most awful, scary words, all of a sudden you’ll notice that while you’re standing there brushing him at 11:30 at night, that he’s going to look back over his shoulder at you. Maybe because he thinks you’re a little bit crazy or maybe because you just found that itchy spot on his chest or his belly, and then you’re going to start scratching and then you’re going to realize that you’re in a relationship with a horse and you’re either going to laugh out loud or you’re going to cry. And you’re disinterested horse is going to think that is really interesting. I’m going to go ahead and break this down and give you some actual steps. Because, you know, it’s this dance for me between this. This professional version of Stacy and this little girl version of Stacy. So there’s this little girl version of Stacy that can show up in a way that is magical and open and curious, more so sometimes than the professional Stacy. And the more you get aware that you’ve got these different versions of yourself that you can show up like, you can, at least for me, what I’ve done is I’ve realized that this–I can change much quicker as I recognize things. So here are some tips for learning how to do that. Number 1, I want you to explore the idea of the learner’s mind or the childlike mind. That open, curious mind that I just kind of took you into after the little breakdown when you snuck out to the barn at 11:30 at night. Actually works at different time frames, works at pretty much any time frame when you weren’t expecting or planning and you didn’t have any kind of an outcome, you know, attached to it. It’s really fun. I suggest you explore how to find that learner’s mind or that childlike mind. And look back at your life, you’ve done it before. I’m sure you have, because you had to have at one point because you’re here. Number 2, explore the words that you’re using. Really write them down or, you know, record a voice memo, even if you don’t send it to me. I love it if you send them to me. But if you don’t, then just record it like you were going to send it to someone and then go ahead and listen to it. Because when you describe a horse as shut down, I want you to go ahead and write a full page on what shut down means to you and what that means if you’ve seen a person that was shut down. And then decide whether or not you really like that phrase, look for substitutes. Maybe he’s not shut down, maybe he’s stoic. Or maybe he’s bored because he’s finding you boring because, you know, when you’re all in your head, you kind of get this weird, mixed vibe, which doesn’t make you super interesting. Then you can go back and you can, Number 3, you can think, what am I making today’s session mean? Am I making it mean something? And what am I making it mean? And then when you’re doing that, go ahead, Number 4, think. What’s one thing you noticed today that you found interesting? Not that you can necessarily check off a list or you don’t even know where it’s pointing to. But maybe, for instance, you were leading him and you tripped and you noticed he had a funny look on his face when you tripped. That’s something that is interesting. This was not necessarily checklist-feeling, but there’s a moment of interest that you had. And then I want you to, Number 5, pick one thing that you want to focus on next time. And if you just wrote that down or if you just listened to the word “focus on”, I actually want you to cross it out. Instead of picking one thing you want to “focus on” next time–do you hear how that changes what you do?–I actually want you to play with maybe one thing to “notice” next time. Sometimes I think we focus so much when we get into that, that, like I want to be professional and really, really do this right, that perfectionist mind. There’s so much focus there that the focus is almost intimidating. And when you approach it more from the energy of that child, but you just notice one thing you’ll notice about children if you watch them, is that they have a lot of reactions to things that adults don’t even notice anymore. So they’ll laugh or they’ll cry or they’ll whatever and you’re like, is the child having a breakdown? And you’re like, no, they’re noticing everything. They’re having–they’re noticing and they’re having a reaction to all these little things. And so there’s something about being present and being in this observer’s mind.

Stacy Westfall: It’s interesting because if you’re really struggling with this dance between like, oh, this is another one of these assignments and I really want to get this, some version of right. I really want to get this right. I really want to get better. And now she’s, like, telling me to be a child and I don’t understand. If you’re really struggling right here–this is going to sound really counterintuitive–but if you record five minutes of your next session on your phone or some kind of device, just set it up on a tripod and just hit record and go out there and do that lunging session or ground tie your horse and brush them, whatever it is that you would kind of normally do. While you’re not going to probably act completely normal when you videotape, what you’re going to notice is that if you put the video on, even if you don’t act totally normal, videotape five minutes of it, shut it off. Then what I want you to do is when you go back to the house later that night or maybe you go out and you sit in the car afterwards and you’re armed with a pen and paper, when you re-watch the video a lot of times that’s when you’ll find those really blocked things. Like you’ll watch yourself and you’re like, oh, why did I do that? The last–I’ve taken 10 lessons in a row where they told me not to step like that. You’ll find your criticisms and your doubts and your fears while you watch that five-minute segment. And odds are those are the things that you’re resisting and fighting that are helping to lead to this overwhelm. Because you can also take that five-minute video and you can notice just one thing that’s really interesting, even if you don’t know what to make it mean. And you can watch that five minute video and you can find just one thing that you want to focus on. No, no, wait a minute. You don’t want to “focus on” it. One thing you want to “notice” again next time you work your horse. Because I think so many times when people are stuffing down those doubts or those fears, that’s when you’re damaging the relationship. And if you think that you don’t have doubts or fears when you’re working with your horse, that should probably be the biggest red flag that you’re stuffing them down, because, at least for my experience, whenever I’ve thought that I had none, it was actually the biggest red flag that I was in denial about them. And I know I’m not in denial about them when I can touch them and handle them and understand them and still be like, I understand you’ve got this doubt and this is how we’re going to approach it. Because here’s an interesting thought. If you stuff down the doubt and you laugh and you pretend everything is fine and underneath, somewhere deep underneath, you realize it’s not, the disconnect is actually happening in the relationship with you. Because you have a relationship with you. And when you’re in that denial phase, and I have been there before, and I try so hard to be aware when I’m in it, even now, the fastest way to me for me to find it is to start looking around at different relationships in my life. And sometimes that’s a horse relationship and sometimes it’s not. And when I feel an incongruent feeling, feelings that don’t line up with the way that I’m acting or talking or showing up. Like I say I’m fine, but I feel flat or disconnected. I say I’m fine or but I feel like I really wish I hadn’t said yes to that. When I feel that moment of incongruent for me now, that’s that red flag that I’m disconnecting something with me that I really need to figure out. Because then I show up as me. And that can be me laughing and that can be me crying and that can be me because I’m OK with all of me. And when you can do that with your horses, you get a lot easier to read and you get a lot more interesting.

Stacy Westfall: Here’s one short story to maybe bring this into an even more tangible and definitely for me a very “happening now” moment. I really, really do recognize that I contain these different things. And I’m going to use these two phrases right now. I still contain that little girl Stacy, that absolutely loves horses at the essence of just horses as a horse. And then there’s professional Stacy. And I am currently, like right now while I’m recording this, I was having some doubt as to whether or not I should share the story right now because the story only has a beginning. It doesn’t have an ending yet and I don’t know how it’s going to end. And so I can feel the doubt in me of whether or not I want to share the story right now. So if I share the story right now, I don’t have the ending. And if I don’t have the ending, maybe, maybe I’ll start the story in one direction and maybe it’s going to take a turn. And I don’t know how that turn’s going to go. Can you hear how this would, would work? So I’m going to go ahead and I’m going to tell you the story. So the story is this: You might have noticed if you’ve been following me for a while, that I love miniature horses. And I realized a long time ago…Well, first of all, I remember loving miniature horses when I was a little girl because I mean, miniature horses. I even thought like some of the dwarfism things that they came up with, the first time I saw one that was monkey mouth, which means that the horse’s bottom jaw extends too far, which is a more common thing in minis, I saw one that was really like this, even though technically it’s a conformation flaw, I was like, oh my gosh, it’s the cutest thing ever. I can remember that before I was a teenager. And so there’s this little girl in me that’s always loved minis. But there’s also now a piece of me that recognizes that one of the reasons that I really love miniature horses is because the professional Stacy has this tendency to head all of her horses to the highest level of whatever they’re capable of, which is a lot of pressure for Stacy and the horse. And so I recognize that tendency in me. And so sometimes, I mean, I definitely address it frequently in the horses like Willow or Gabby that I’m really aiming for some higher-level professional things. I do the best job I can of remaining also at times like going through cycles where I’m very playful and very little girl. But I do feel the difference in my body from that really, really open feeling that I can get. And I know that I get that really open feeling when I work with younger horses like colts when I’m doing colt starting or when I’m working with the babies. And so any of the beginning stages of the horse training feel more like that to me. And minis are typically not very well trained and they’re little bitty and they make me laugh. And so I’m generally kind of obsessed with, like little miniatures. I think they’re super cute when they’re really ornery, which is convenient because most of them are and I think they’re crazy cute when they’re really well trained. So I have this habit of like stalking Craigslist and like looking at miniature horses and trying to decide when the next time is going to be right to get another miniature horse. And so I do this–like I’ve been doing this for years. I do this on the regular. And so last week I’m on Craigslist and I’m looking around and I go, like I search the state, I search all around the state. I search surrounding states. This is what I’m doing with my spare time, people. And, and so for whatever reason that it happens, like, you know, you see one and all of a sudden because they’re all cute, right? But like, I see one and I’m like, this is the one. And I actually took a screenshot and sent it to my husband and I just like did the little scrawled, like in my handwriting on the–on it wrote, “I want,” in red. And I loved his response. His response to my text with a picture of a mini and I want was, “When’s it coming home?” And this is when I’m really aware of the beginning of this dance between little girl Stacy and professional Stacy. Because a little girl Stacy is the one that’s on Craigslist, by the way. But I’m also the professional Stacy. So when both of those lined up for just a little bit, they have a little bit of an overlap, I went ahead and I sent a message to this person and asked about the mini and lined up a time to go, to go pick up the mini, go look at the mini, whatever, because, you know, little girl Stacy is like, take the trailer. And professional Stacy is like, well, it is a kind of a four-hour drive. So probably taking the trailer is a good idea. And so this is what it sounds like when I’m doing this, when I realize there’s this different versions of me that are interacting with this, I actually just claim it. So I line up a time to…and this is in the past. So I line up this time for last Friday to go look at this mini and I’m working my way there and I realize it’s a two-year-old, it’s a stallion, so I’m going to end up gelding it. Little girl Stacy is like, I don’t care. It’s really cute. Just go get it. Pick it up. It doesn’t matter. You can do whatever you want. You’re professional, you’re fine. And then professional Stacy is like, well, if I’m a professional, I’m going to look at this at least for a few minutes. As a professional, I’ve made it this far. I’ve even lined up the time. And then I realize this could be a cryptorchid because that happens in any size horse and it can for sure happen in mnis. And basically that means that if you have a stallion, they have two testicles that are descended and if you have a cryptorchid, you have a stallion and only one testicle has descended. And that causes a problem when you go to geld them because it changes it from a procedure that the vet can do at your barn with a typical gelding. It turns it into a full-blown surgery and professional Stacy realizes that a full-blown surgery on a mini probably isn’t the same thing as a full-blown surgery on a horse. And a full-blown surgery on a horse is a thing. That’s a thing. That’s, that’s a bigger thing than, than what little girls Stacy wants to admit. So professional Stacy reaches out and the owner of the mini is like, I’m not 100% sure. And I remember before I had Presto gelded, I wasn’t 100% sure which surgery I was getting into, but I already owned him. I had already made that decision when he was 30 days old with any and all of the consequences because you can’t tell at 30-days-old if this is going to be an issue. And so I realized with Presto what I was getting into. Now, I realized with this mini that I could be getting into the surgery. Not a deal-breaker. Little girl Stacy is crying and throwing a temper tantrum. Professional Stacy is calling Ohio State and finding out how much surgery is on a mini. And so I find out that the surgery on the mini is somewhere between 1100 and fourteen hundred dollars. I also learned that they do this laparoscopically, that they do laparoscopic surgery with minis. And I think that’s kind of cool to even know that they can do that. So I am like now I’m back and forth. So now I’m reaching out to the owner of the mini. Now I’m going to be like pain-in-the-butt Stacy. So now I’m aware that I am a little girl, Stacy, I am professional Stacy. I’m also aware that this woman who’s got the mini knows who I am. So I’ve got this layer of, what does she think of me? Like because people tend to form opinions of me before they’ve actually met me, because I’m out there on the Internet and I’ve got a podcast and all the stuff. So that’s going on. And so I’ve got, “What does she think of me?” and I’ve got, “How am I going to approach this so that no matter who it was approaching, it might sound like a rational thing?” All of these layers are going on. Can you hear how this gets complicated? I’m just saying this so that you–I’m saying I’m aware of it. It soesn’t have to be a big deal. But you’ll know you’re studying awareness when you start feeling all these levels of awareness inside of something like this. So I send the email and I say, I totally understand that you aren’t 100% confident because I remember not being 100% confident with my horse, Presto. So how about this? How about I do a vet check on the mini. Now, little girl Stacy is trying to pull out like every little girl, logical thing like, you’re wasting your money. Why are you spending money? You’re going to spend half the cost of the whole money on a vet check. Professional Stacy is like, yeah. because, you know, a vet check actually saves you money in the long run because even if you spend that money, you know so much more. So I’m paying for professional’s opinion. I’m paying to know whether or not I’m signing up for an $100-$1400 surgery. I’m also getting a professional’s opinion on a bunch of other stuff, too, because the vet is a professional who’s going to be probably in veterinarian mode and not in the middle of an argument between little girl Stacy and professional Stacy. And I don’t know about you, but if you tow a horse trailer all the way to look at a horse, your odds of turning into little girl Stacy go way through the roof. So. So I decide paying for the vet is a good idea and, of course, little girl Stacy runs away crying because she realizes there’s more risks to this even happening. I’m just saying all this to say that when I talk to you about, like, showing your horse or when I talk to you about going on a trail ride or talk to you about buying a horse or talk to you about euthanizing a horse, there are so many levels of awareness. And I just think it’s actually healthy to understand all the different angles you could be coming at it from. And listen to this, not judging yourself for any of them. I love that little girl Stacy is still alive and well here because I get so many people that are afraid to become more professional because they’re afraid that using the word professional means they can’t have that love of the horse anymore. They can’t have that curiosity anymore. And maybe that comes from that word professional and what you’ve put on to that word professional. I don’t know the end of my little–my little mini story yet. I don’t know whether this little mini will come into my life. I don’t even know for sure if finding out that this surgery–say this is a cryptorchid and requires the surgery, I haven’t even made the final decision yet whether that’s a total out for me. Maybe I’ll decide that it’s worth investing this into. Maybe I’ll say, you know, this is this is–this is how I want to spend my money. All I’m saying is I’m going to do this as an informed decision. With Presto, when I made the decision, it was an informed decision because I knew that buying a 30-day-old horse with the history he had, I knew what I was walking into for potential, because when we buy horses there’s lots of potential for risk. I’m just recognizing with this one, this is a different stage of life for the mini, for me, for all of this. And this is the path that I choose now, even though it looks a little different than the path I chose when I chose Presto. I’m just encouraging this high level of awareness and then this openness to the outcome. I still have all these open choices, and sometimes that gets hard for people because they start looking at it like, oh, I’ve invested so much cost, I’m invested so much of this. That’s when you go back and you lean on little girl Stacy. You just go back and forth between the two. So I hope you found this wandering podcast useful and maybe somewhat entertaining. And I’ll update you in a later podcast on the outcome of this mini, because if it’s not this mini, this is a good sign that there’s probably a mini coming into my life soon. Thanks again for listening and I’ll talk to you in the next episode.

Announcer: If you enjoy listening to Stacy’s podcast, please visit stacywestfall.com for articles, videos, and tips to help you and your horse succeed.

Links mentioned in podcast:

Episode 112: Can you have relationship AND results with your horse?


  1. Christina on April 3, 2021 at 10:20 am

    StacyWestfall!!!! You are SO REAL!!! You are speaking directing to me, my heart, and my struggles!!! I am only at mile marker 24:53 of this podcast and had to stop & write this to you. Thank you! Thank you! You speak to the intangible and tangible crazy sides of my brain. You speak to my concerns & fears. You encourage & guide me. You are my favorite mentor. As a mom of six kids, I struggle deeply with a lot of baggage. Thank you for all you do & all your help!!! Now, I’m off to finish the rest of this amazing podcast! I love you & I love your podcast!

    • Stacy Westfall on April 6, 2021 at 9:22 pm

      Thank you for this wonderful surprise! What a joy to read a heartfelt response like this.
      Some days I record and wonder, “Not sure where that will land…” and then I find a message like this. Thanks for letting me know and for listening!

  2. Roisin on March 17, 2021 at 5:29 pm

    This is your best podcast to date!!! Maybe we all needed to hear this message at this moment. This was emotional and hit the nail on the head. Thank you once again for your beautiful insights Stacy!

  3. Jemi on March 17, 2021 at 12:41 pm

    Thank you so much for doing this podcast episode! The advice you gave was exactly what I needed to hear. I’ve been in the same boat as the caller, where I’ve been feeling overwhelmed by all the new information I’ve been ingesting about horsemanship and trying to implement it in my sessions with my horses.

    Last night, as I went out to work with the horses, I thought about “Little Girl Jemi” and how she felt before getting her first horse at age 10, and how she would have done anything just to be around horses in any capacity. It was a good reminder of how lucky I am to have eight horses now and have an arena/round-pen/lots of property for them.

    Instead of doing my normal sessions with the horses, I thought of the one thing I would do if a “schedule” wasn’t involved, and it was simply, ride my baby, Loki, around bareback in a halter/lead – something I’ve only ever done a couple of times on him! I set out some barrels (something we’ve never done) and just walked him around the arena and the barrel pattern for about 15 minutes. He did great and I felt the “overwhelmed” feelings leave my body and be replaced by the child-like joy again. It was such a relief!

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